As the ball wrapped around third base and rolled into the outfield, the Michigan baseball team knew its hopes of a Big Ten Tournament Championship were over. Indiana (33-21-2) had taken the Wolverines to 13 innings and brought the runner from second across the plate to hand Michigan (42-15) a 5-4 loss.
“Heck of a college baseball game,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “Two good teams going at it. A lot of little plays under the microscop. … Both teams had opportunities throughout the game. Big defensive plays were made by both teams, big pitches were made by both teams, big hits.
“A very good baseball game and (I’m) disappointed we didn’t come out on top.”
With their ace pitcher on the bump, the Wolverines were primed to redeem themselves after an opening round loss to Northwestern the day before. Junior left-hander Oliver Jaskie didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. He had nine strikeouts through seven innings, but in the bottom of the seventh inning he allowed a two-run home run to Indiana centerfielder Craig Dedelow to tie the game.
“That was a leadoff walk in that inning and Dedelow who put a good swing on a breaking ball,” Bakich said. “That was maybe the only miscue or the only error in Oliver’s day. I thought he was outstanding. He attacked the strike zone (and) he gave us a chance. … That’s exactly what we needed, a quality start out of him, we just didn’t come out on top.”
The home run was the first scoring play since the second inning, where the Wolverines had struck first. Junior first baseman Jake Bivens led off with a single to right-field, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice fly. With the first run of the game just 90 feet from the plate, sophomore Jonathan Engelmann blasted a single up the middle to score Bivens. Engelmann would later be the second run of the inning after senior centerfielder Johnny Slater ripped a ground rule double to centerfield.
After Dedelow’s game-tying homer, Michigan had to go to work again. It responded right away by taking the lead in the top of the eighth inning on an Indiana error that allowed junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer to score from second. A groundout ended the inning and stranded Bivens on third base, but the Wolverines hoped the one-run lead would be enough.
Senior right-hander Mac Lozer, who coming into this contest had a 0.00 earned-run average and had allowed just seven hits through 25 innings, took the mound. But in similar fasion as Wednesday’s contest, the bullpen couldn’t get the job done. A leadoff double to left-center field set the Hoosiers up for a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to third. A slow grounder to shortstop would score the tying run after senior Michael Brdar considered trying to make the play at the plate but went for the guaranteed out at first base.
With two outs, Lozer allowed three consecutive singles, which scored another run and gave Indiana the lead heading into the ninth inning.
However, the Hoosiers weren’t the only ones that could rally with two outs. After sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas was hit by a pitch, a Brdar single through the right side advanced him to second. But Lugbauer did the most damage with a single through the left side. Thomas scored easily, but Indiana’s left-fielder slightly bobbled the ball which brought the go-ahead run to third base. Unfortunately for Michigan, a checked swing strikeout would strand two men on base.
The bottom of the ninth saw junior right-hander Alec Rennard retire the side, but the Hoosiers made good contact with the ball and nearly had two possible walk-off home runs.
Eager to end it, the Wolverines made some noise in the 12th inning. Lugbauer began the inning with a walk and was followed by a single. With two men on and no outs, Michigan’s chances of scoring looked good. But Lugbauer was caught in no man’s land and Indiana’s catcher threw him out. The play shifted the momentum of the inning, and the Wolverines went down quietly.
In the 13th inning, it appeared Michigan had played out of a jam and would live to see another frame. After an overthrow by sophomore third baseman Jimmy Kerr and a four-ball walk, the Hoosiers had two men on with no outs. But two clutch strikeouts from sophomore left-hander William Tribucher gave the Wolverines hope — until left-fielder Alex Krupa’s hit ended Michigan’s tournament.
It was a strong showing by both teams. But in the end, the Wolverines couldn’t string enough hits together, and the 13 batters they left on base came back to haunt them.
All Michigan can do now is wait for the NCAA Tournament selection show, and hope they can refocus the bullpen and bounce back from two close losses.
“There’s no question about the fight and character of this group,” Bakich said. “If I know this group at all, which I do, this will piss them off a little bit. They wanted to be Big Ten Champions and we didn’t get that done. But they’ll get back at it this week, and whatever happens, wherever we go, we’ll be ready.”